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A letter from John and Gwen Haspels in Ethiopia
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy” Luke 10:19.
After almost five years we were finally able to move back into Moga to live and begin work among the Suri Baale people. You will see from some of the stories that follow that the nature of our work is not just physical but spiritual. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12). We are involved in SPIRITUAL WARFARE. Our mission is to proclaim the Good News of God’s Love in Jesus Christ to the Suri Baale people. Our goal is to see them rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light.Continue reading
A letter from Elisabeth Cook in Costa Rica
Dear Friends in Mission:
Greetings from Costa Rica! As Holy Week comes to an end I begin to see the signs of the upcoming rainy season. It has been a week of rest and renewal, a time to remember the life, death and resurrection of Christ and to recommit to continued service to the hungry, thirsty and imprisoned in whom we see the presence of our risen Lord.
I began this year in the United Kingdom, where I spent some vacation time on my doctoral research at the University of Exeter. That trip gave me the opportunity to visit some of UBL (Latin American Biblical University)’s partners in London, Hamburg and Geneva. As I presented our new proposal for online education I was continually amazed by the interest, commitment and solidarity of these men and women who are so far from Latin America and could so easily ignore challenges and realities halfway across the globe.Continue reading
A letter from Paul Matheny and Mary Nebelsick in the Philippines
It is 5 am in the morning and I am sitting at the dining room table. The roosters are crowing outside and our cats are running and jumping all over the furniture. My thoughts are with you and with the people I met this past week. Last Tuesday I travelled two hours from our home in Dasmariñas Cavite to Manila to participate in a doctoral student’s dissertation defense. This is our usual trip. We walk to the bus stop, take a bus to a central terminal, change to a city bus, walk a little way and change to a smaller jeep and get down at the University.
The University was particularly quiet that day since the Philippines was celebrating the EDSA Revolution, the day that they peacefully freed themselves from the Marcos dictatorship and returned to democratic rule. Many people had gathered in public places to celebrate this liberation over tyranny. In the Union Theological Seminary boardroom we were also talking about liberation. We were discussing a dissertation devoted to conflict transformation. Our student, a woman pastor devoted to her congregation, asked, “Can conflict be transformed into growth? Can death be turned into life?” She was concerned with all the violence within and without the church and developed a curriculum to begin to address the problem. Women in the Philippines are dedicated to addressing issues of violence. Its destructiveness seeps into every part of life. “We have to begin to find a way to talk about conflict,” she insisted. “We must find ways of working through conflict so that a new vision of church life can emerge.”Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day in Rwanda
Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings from Rwanda.
A small congregation of believers gathers on Sundays in a small chapel just at the end of my road, across the road from PIASS. In addition to the 50 or so students, mostly from the school of theology, who regularly worship, we are joined by a host of international folks. We are blessed with a lovely French lady, older than I am, who heads her own NGO working with widows and orphans both here and in Uganda. She has worked in the region for the last 20 years. Then there is the Japanese professor who heads the peace-building program at PIASS and his wife. They were based in Kigali with an NGO for nine years until last year when he joined PIASS full time. My next-door neighbors, a Tanzanian family, worship with us. She is a Lutheran pastor and is teaching systematic theology at PIASS while he is teaching at a private primary school just around the corner. Their housekeeper also attends, even though her English is limited. Our only non-student elder is the wife of the president of our presbytery, a nurse by training and the mother of three. Several folks working for NGOs in the area come from time to time. One is from Uniontown, Pa., just 60 miles from my home in the States. An American medical doctor and his Guatemalan wife have worshipped with us a few times. They are Jewish but enjoy the fellowship. As you can see, we have an eclectic gathering.Continue reading
A letter from Jacob and Aliamma George on home assignment from South Sudan
We were evacuated to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, due to the sudden fighting in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and spreading to other parts quickly. We are very thankful for the fast and effective effort of our PC(USA) staff members who drew us to safety. When we reached Addis Rev. Michael Weller and his wife, Rachel, were very helpful to us. As the situation got worse in South Sudan we were not able to go back to Malakal until the situation changed. We spent two months in a church guesthouse, visited a few churches, and helped in a nearby girls' high school that was initiated a few decades ago by Presbyterian missionaries. The graduates from that high school go to prestigious universities and hold high positions in the country. They hold chapel services daily from 9:30 to 11 am, starting with the elementary children, then the middle and high school students. We spoke to the students and staff a few times and after one chapel service about 20 students stayed back for special prayers for different needs.Continue reading
A letter from Leslie Vogel in Guatemala
Dear companions in mission,
Lent is a time for reflecting on our own brokenness and the world’s brokenness; it is also a time for preparing our hearts to receive God’s amazing gift of the power of life over death—demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ—which we celebrate at Easter.
In the 10 short months I have been working in Guatemala with CEDEPCA (the Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America), I have managed to get my fingers into many “pots.” Future letters will fill you in on some of those additional responsibilities and pastimes. Meantime, since serving as an Intercultural Encounters (IE) facilitator is my primary responsibility, I want to focus this letter on what the IE program is all about, beginning with the words of an Intercultural Encounters immersion seminar participant:
As a teacher, I’ve always believed education plays a fundamental role in eliminating poverty, so CEDEPCA’s motto, “education that transforms,” struck a chord with me, even before I set foot in Guatemala. In 34 years of teaching Spanish, I’d covered Mayan history without really understanding the daily struggles Mayan women face today. I taught about the terrible civil war in Guatemala without having ever spoken directly to a survivor of that bloody conflict. I was unprepared for the emotional impact of talking with Guatemalan women, many of them Mayan, whose lives had been fundamentally transformed by the classes CEDEPCA offers. In turn, their stories of overcoming obstacles I couldn’t even imagine experiencing transformed me. The courageous people I met through CEDEPCA not only made me a better Spanish teacher, they gave me hope for a better future.Continue reading
A letter from Nadia Ayoub on home assignment from Ukraine
Dear Friends and Families,
I greet you all with the peace of Christ. I pray that you all are rejoicing in this Lenten season as we prepare for celebrating the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sake to obtain the forgiveness of our sins and have eternal life with God. Thank you so much for your partnership by your prayers, encouragements, and financial support.
It is Joy that winter is ending and there are signs of spring in some places with a few flowers.
It was difficult to leave the Roma children toward the end of January to come to the United States for interpretation assignment, but I thank God, for he is all-wise, and love rewards my faint obedience and even encouraged me more in this time.
By God’s grace during my interpretation time here in U.S.A. I visited with many very faithful Presbyterians on the East Coast. Some churches were new to me, one church had not had a missionary for more than 15 years, and some churches I visited 10 years ago. I drove for many hours to reach some churches, some were big with five services every Sunday morning, but also some were small churches, but nevertheless they organized several smaller meetings, for example, meeting with Sunday School, then preaching in the church, then again sharing during lunch after the church service. Oh, let me tell you about all the wonderful, delicious meals that Presbyterians love to gather around to fellowship and share what our loving God, our Father, is doing in the world, especially among the Roma people in Karpatalja-Ukraine.Continue reading
A letter from Jonathan Seitz in Taiwan
On a recent Friday afternoon more than a hundred Taiwan Seminary students took scooters, cars, and train to meet up at a point a few miles outside Tamsui, the historic city in northern Taiwan where the missionary George Leslie Mackay arrived in 1872. We walked the path together for an hour in long, broken lines along a riverside path. We made our way into the small city and visited several old Presbyterian centers: a church, a high school, and a college. Tamsui is a beautiful city, with a path that winds along a river and with clouded mountains in the distance. As we walked, I saw a crane looking for fish in the water and heard the twang of frogs. We passed a touristy boardwalk and navigated the path up the hills leading into town.
Along the way I had the chance to catch up with students. Two of the students had gone to the Presbyterian high school there, Tamkang High School, and told me how much it influenced them. Later, another student told me about the pressure she’d felt as a pastor’s kid and how she began to drift from the church in her early teen years. Coming to this school revived her faith, and she found new role models in the teachers and chaplains there; today she is in her second year of seminary and will eventually serve in a church. One person shared that she met her husband when they both lived in this college town. Soon they will graduate and serve in the church. Several of our students became Christian during their time in Tamsui.
A letter from Tom and Judy Harvey in England
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert Isaiah 43:19.
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
Years back when I trained to work as a firefighter in northern California we were given the sage advice to “expect the unexpected.” That has proven true at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS). Founded over 30 years ago to transform people and society through the research of scholars and leaders from Asia, Africa and Latin America, OCMS continues to address the unexpected and in so doing confounds traditional barriers to mission in order to assist in the transformation of peoples, societies and their worlds.Continue reading
A letter from Sharon Bryant in Thailand
The past three months have flown by with my feet barely touching the ground. In some cases it was because I was traveling between my old home and my new home as I moved from Chiang Mai to Bangkok in December under a new assignment with our partner church. My new job title is a long one, but it accurately describes what I do: Assistant to the General Secretary of the Church of Christ in Thailand for Ecumenical Relations. In this role I have three major responsibilities: (1) representing the Church of Christ in Thailand and interpreting its mission and ministry to its mission partners around the world (which includes working with correspondence between the partners and hosting delegations visiting the Church of Christ in Thailand and its ministries); (2) facilitating the work of the approximately 100 mission workers assigned to the Church of Christ in Thailand (which includes orienting them to living and working in Thailand, maintaining communication with them, solving problems, and supporting them in their efforts to minister to the Thai people); and (3) coordinating and facilitating the work of short-term mission workers who come as volunteers (which includes all of those who have come under the Christian Volunteers in Thailand (CVT) program and those who will come under the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program). It sounds like a lot, but fortunately I have a wonderful staff of three (soon to be four) who are incredible and they make the work fun and exciting!Continue reading
A letter from Brenda Harcourt in Kenya
In addition to my regular positions of leadership training and teaching theology at the Presbyterian University of East Africa (PUEA) I take a few hours on Saturdays to meet with women in a gathering we call “Sewing Our Stories or Sharing Our Stories.” The women come to learn how to do different types of needlework, cooking and baking, quilting, whatever they want to learn. I have found these times to be so healthy for them and me. We talk about issues they are facing and how just being able to have a place to come and talk about them is so helpful. We have discussed so many topics over the years, from female genital mutilation to unfaithful marriages to finding identity in a male-dominated society. Last year we took a break from it and some of the women have developed ties to each other and continue on their own, and so we just started again this year. The gathering was based around learning to sew plastic canvas to produce boxes and craft items they can sell. I was blessed that several folks who came to the Kenya International Network meeting brought yarn from the U.S.A. in variegated colors and plastic canvas to add to what we can find in this country. Keeping the hands busy allows them to feel freer to open up and share those issues that are deep inside.Continue reading
A letter from Barbara Nagy on home assignment from Malawi
Greetings from Decatur, Ga., where we think of returning to Malawi every single day. We have almost finished our school programs here and will be spending the summer in North Carolina, visiting many of you before we return to Nkhoma in August. We feel blessed by so many things here in the U.S., a strong church family that has nurtured and encouraged us, many advantages of the Mission Haven community, and the learning that we have acquired through some lo-o-n-g nights of studying. Plus ice cream, watermelon, ruby red grapefruits, and water and electricity that work whenever you want them! The following stories are passed on by our colleagues in Malawi since we have been away.
The financial challenges faced by Nkhoma Hospital continue to cause severe hardships, and yet donations from friends such as many of you have kept the hospital able to offer all of its basic services while we wait for the Malawi government to solve its current financial crisis and resume paying its debts. There is an election scheduled for May 2014, which has already occasioned some violence and a few deaths. We pray that there will be peace and justice in the upcoming contest for president, and that no more violence will occur.Continue reading
A letter from Barbara Easton in Japan
When graduating from Kwassui some years ago, Hiroko wrote: “Kwassui is a Christian school, so we had the opportunity to learn Christian teachings. Among us there were those who had never received any religious education before entering Kwassui. Therefore, they first thought that they didn’t want to be required to learn about Christianity and shouldn’t have come to this college. However, as we studied it, we found the truth in the Bible here and there in spite of it being difficult to understand. Worship and the retreats were helpful to us, and especially did the short morning chapel brace us up. Some words that the preachers said sometimes made us consider deeply. We were richer spiritually than we had been after we heard them. I think even if we forget what we learned in class, we’ll never forget about Christianity. It will help us and give us strength in the future.”Continue reading
A letter from Bob Butterfield in Portugal
Dear Friends in Mission,
Keiko and I greet you in Christ’s name and thank you once again for supporting the work we do in Portugal. By helping us, you come alongside the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Portugal (IEPP) and give it the boost it needs to gear up for the challenges of spreading the gospel in this part of the world.
A major part of this challenge comes from the fact that, because the IEPP is such a small denomination, children who grow up in it almost inevitably end up marrying someone from another church body or from no church. There is, then, no guarantee at all that people who are raised in the IEPP or their children are going to remain in the IEPP. This problem has been exacerbated by the emigration of so many young Portuguese, especially our own youth, who were forced to leave the country in search of work abroad. What this means is that the IEPP is not self-generating in the way a church body with a larger number of young members might be. As a result, the IEPP has to do much more to attract new members.Continue reading
A letter from Chenoa Stock in Bolivia
Renewed on the Journey
“This will be a season of struggle, but it will also be a season of discovery and triumph, because, ultimately, Lent is a journey toward freedom—freedom from the control that our fears and insecurities hold over us, and freedom for new life, new beginnings, and Easter-living” (d365 daily Lenten devotional).
Well, my Lenten season definitely began as a season of struggle as I was diagnosed with salmonella the day after Ash Wednesday. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among the expatriates in Bolivia, but that did not make the weakness and discomfort any more enjoyable. The obligatory time to rest and slow down did help me simplify my life, movements and diet to begin my Lenten journey, and also made me appreciate the feeling of being completely healthy and renewed a couple of weeks later. Triumph over sickness. Freedom from pain. This also is Lent: not to be viewed only as a time to ‘give up’ the distracting things in our lives, but also a time of renewal and discovery—renewing who we are individually and in relation to God’s Creation and all in it.Continue reading
A letter from Richard and Debbie Welch in Guatemala
Dear Friends and Partners in Mission,
What a year this has been! January of 2013 found Richard welcoming the New Year in anticipation of another year of new and ongoing projects with his colleagues at Triumph Composite Systems. Debbie was busy closing the books on the Advent season and preparing for Epiphany with her colleagues in shared ministry at Knox Presbyterian Church. We were thinking about some much-needed improvements on our little farm and enjoying the season in life in which our adult children were close by and establishing themselves in life, work, and church. Earlier in the year we had seen a posting for mission co-workers in Guatemala, and after much prayer and discussion, decided to apply. But much time had passed since submitting our applications, and we found ourselves content in the fact that maybe it was not yet the time for us to change careers, and we were preparing to refocus our efforts on the presbytery partnership that led us into thinking about Guatemala in the first place.
A letter from Dan and ElizabethTurk in Madagascar
Thank you very much for your faithful support for PC(USA) mission efforts in Madagascar. By supporting us as PC(USA) mission co-workers and by supporting the efforts of PC(USA)’s partner church, the FJKM, in the fields of health and environment you are helping to bring God’s love to the people of Madagascar.
On a personal note, 2013 marked a new phase for us with Frances a freshman and Robert a senior in high school. This year is an even bigger year of transition as Robert graduates from high school. He will be entering Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., in August. Please pray for all of us as we prepare for this big change.
The year 2013 saw much progress in our respective areas of work. For fruit trees, over 200 trees, including many varieties that first came to Madagascar in our luggage in August 2012, were planted out in demonstration orchards. Many of the new varieties have been propagated and distributed to farmers. Canistels, low-chill nectarines, dragon fruits, and muscadine grapes are among the new fruits with particular promise. A practical course in vegetable gardening and fruit growing is continuing for the 7th consecutive year for FJKM seminary students. Extension efforts with farmers continue to advance. In particular, at Antanetibe Ankazobe, over 70 farmers have an average of over 20 tangerine trees. After less than four years these trees are now beginning to bear fruit, giving the farmers confidence that growing fruits will result in a major increase in their family income. This is an important step in helping families get out of poverty.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.